Centre midfield, with perhaps the exception of left-back, is the position where Scotland are at their strongest. There’s Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie, EPL talents Stuart Armstrong, Scott McTominay, John McGinn and John Fleck, and Norwich City’s Kenny McLean, a player who hasn’t let Steve Clarke down in the past. There’s even guys like David Turnbull and Ryan Gauld – very talented options who can’t get a look in.
Unfortunately, despite tired-cliche abusers telling you otherwise, football isn’t that simple. Not all centre-midfielders are born equal and Jack’s brand of unselfish play makes him a key component of Clarke’s gameplan and someone we could really struggle without this summer.
His performance away to Serbia best illustrated his value. Playing in Europe for Rangers, he has been a key competent of midfield units who have stood up to higher pedigree opponents and still managed to control the area. That’s what he and McGregor were able to do in Belgrade that famous night. They worked tirelessly off the ball and always made sure to find a Scotland jersey whenever they got it.
With two wing-backs pushing high up the park and three central attackers ahead of them, their job wasn’t to go and win the game, but instead to build the foundation on which Scotland could succeed against a more fancied opponent – something we’ll need to do again at least three times in June.
It’s no coincidence that playing alongside Jack brought out the best in McGregor, who has often been accused of failing to match his performances for the national team to those he churns out for Celtic.
After being left out of the starting XI for the 2-2 draw with Austria, McGregor started the last two World Cup qualifiers against Israel and Faroe Islands and with it looking increasingly likely that McTominay will be utilised at right centre-back and McGinn pushed further forward this summer, the onus will be on the 29-cap to replicate his Serbia showing throughout this summer's tournament without his partner in crime.